Smoky Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese

April 30, 2020

This Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese is over the top delicious. Loaded with bacon, sausage, and extra cheese before getting a tender kiss of hardwood smoke. You may not know it yet, but this is your new favorite food. Your death-row last meal request. Are you ready for that kind of commitment? Well then, friend, read on.

Spoonful of cheesy jalapeno popper mac and cheese being lifted out of a cast iron skillet. Decorative text

So What is Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese?

I think mac and cheese needs to be indulgent. It is comfort food, after all. So keep that in mind as you read the ingredients list, mmmmk? My favorite thing about this dish (in addition to the awesome flavor) is the ease of preparation. One skillet. No separate pot of hot water or additional baking dishes required. Everything is cooked together, even the noodles, which results in the creamiest mac & cheese to ever hit your tongue. The noodles absorb all of the flavor from the bacon, sausage, and jalapenos while it cooks. Every bite is equally as delicious as the one before.

After spending a couple of years perfecting the Stuffed Jalapeno Popper, I knew it was time to take those flavors and  put it in a pasta! I think it is pretty standard to throw some cream cheese in a jalapeno, wrap it in bacon, and call it a jalapeno popper. Alas, simplicity was never my strong suit. I took the base flavors and went a little off course and drove that flavor train into meat depot. I added browned bratwursts, melty cheese, and topped the whole thing with my signature Sweet Rub. They are the best poppers ever, and now all the flavors I love are all floating around in every bite of this Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese.

Macaroni and cheese topped with cracker crumbs and jalapeno slices in a cast iron skillet

Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese Ingredients

This mac and cheese has a few more ingredients than just noodles, cheese, and milk. Here’s what you’ll need to assemble to make these mac and cheese dreams a reality. There are a few ingredients, but this is a fully loaded mac and cheese. Making it is definitely easier with your ingredients pulled together before you start cooking. Full quantities are in the recipe card below.

  • Bacon
  • Uncooked bratwursts
  • Jalapenos
  • Cream cheese
  • Macaroni noodles
  • Milk
  • Cream
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Butter crackers (think Ritz)
  • BBQ Seasoning (I recommend my Signature Sweet Rub that you can either MAKE or BUY)

What Makes this Mac and Cheese Smoky?

The real secret to this mac and cheese is baking it in your smoker. Just 30 minutes at 225 degrees F is enough to give your mac and cheese that classic baked texture and the perfect kiss of smoky flavor. It’ll taste like you’re eating a jalapeno popper straight off the grill, with a healthy dose of carbs. This recipe also finishes cooking at a high heat, which makes it perfect for cooking on a pellet smoker that adjusts heat quickly. 

If you don’t have a smoker, and you still want a bit of smoky flavor in your mac & cheese, buy apple or hickory smoked bacon to use in the recipe! You can follow the rest of the instructions, just skip the smoking step and bake at the same temperature in your oven instead of on your grill. 

Final note before you jump in and fulfill all of your wildest food fantasies, mac and cheese is always about preference! My husband likes his mac and cheese extra saucy, so I always add in an extra quarter to a half cup of milk after the noodles are cooked. I like my mac and cheese baked and a little more set up, so I cook following the recipe as written.

Smoked macaroni and cheese topped with toasted cracker crumbs and sliced jalapenos in a cast iron skillet

More Smoky Mac and Cheese Recipes

I think a good plate of BBQ is perfectly rounded out by a tasty mac and cheese recipe. These mac and cheese masterpieces are sure to inspire you the next time you’re looking for a tasty BBQ side dish:

Smoked Mac and Cheese
Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese
Bacon Mac and Cheese
Deep Fried Mac and Cheese Bombs (stuffed with smoked pulled pork!)

Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese Recipe

Ready to become a backyard BBQ hero? Join my members-only group The Grill Squad for full access to all my meat, rubs, sauces, and meat buying masterclasses, podcasts, and so much more. It’s an amazing community of grillers that will help support you and increase your confidence of all things BBQ.

Making good food should be easy, and Hey Grill Hey is here to help! Over at Patio Provisions, we have sauces, rubs, and more to save you time and energy when you’re busy at the grill. This jalapeno popper mac and cheese recipe is made much simpler by using the Sweet Rub I’ve already made and bottled for you!

A spoonful of cheesy jalapeno popper mac and cheese being lifted out of a cast iron skillet
Print Recipe
5 from 9 votes

Smoky Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese

This Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese is over the top delicious. Loaded with bacon, sausage, and extra cheese before getting a tender kiss of hardwood smoke.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr 5 mins
Course: Main Dish, Side Dishes
Cuisine: Comfort Food
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 678kcal

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound bacon diced
  • 1 link uncooked bratwurst casing removed
  • 2 jalapenos seeds removed and finely diced
  • 1 8 oz brick cream cheese
  • 8 oz uncooked elbow macaroni noodles
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups marbled cheddar shredded
  • 1/4 cup butter crackers (like Ritz) crushed
  • 1 jalapeno thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon Hey Grill Hey Signature Sweet Rub

Instructions

  • Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees F with a mild hard wood like pecan or maple.
  • Preheat a 12 inch cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Brown the bacon and sausage. Stir in the diced jalapenos and cook 2-3 minutes, until softened.
  • Stir in the cream cheese and mix until well combined. Pour in the noodles, water, milk, and cream. Cook, stirring regularly, until the noodles have absorbed a majority of the liquid (about 8-10 minutes).
  • Turn off the heat and carefully stir in the garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cheese until everything is all melted together. Sprinkle the top with the sweet rub, the buttered crackers, and the thin jalapeno slices.
  • Place the mac and cheese in the smoker and smoke for 30 minutes. Either transfer your mac and cheese to a 400 degree F oven or increase your grill temperature to 400 degrees. Bake for 8-10 minutes at the higher temperature until the crackers are starting to brown.
  • Remove the mac and cheese from the grill and serve.

Video

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Nutrition

Calories: 678kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 49g | Saturated Fat: 25g | Cholesterol: 134mg | Sodium: 1052mg | Potassium: 346mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1137IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 369mg | Iron: 1mg

**This post was originally published on 1/25/2017. It has since been updated with more information, a video, and new photos, but the recipe remains the same.**

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26 thoughts on “Smoky Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese

    1. Hey Patty! This recipe serves 6 as a main dish. If you look at the recipe card under the cook time and course/cuisine you can actually adjust the servings and it will change the amount of each ingredient for the recipe.

  1. This is going to sound silly and SO WRONG.. but is there any way you could suggest making this without meat? Have a couple coming over who’s vegetarian.. And this Mac and cheese is the bomb dot com!

  2. Just made this, so yummy! I used brown sugar bacon which seriously stepped it up. I also added fresh garlic & a little red onion with the jalapeños. Next time I’ll be doubling the jalapeños as i can’t even taste the heat at all! Overall this was a great dish & I’ll definitely be cooking it again!

  3. I’ve made a bunch of smoked Mac n Chz recipes and this is the one I go back to more often than not. Well done, thank you.

  4. This is unbelievable!! A little on the rich side, but delicious all the same. A huge hit with everyone who tried it. And it even gets better the next day!

  5. Hey grill hey,

    What model of Camp Chef pellet smoker are you using? I’m in the market for a new one.

    Thanks and thanks again for all your recipes and tips!

  6. what would be suggested if needing to make this the night prior and heating the next day? my smoker will be maxed out with other meats and i need one less item the day of but this was also a huge hit last time!

  7. It was amazing! Sadly I don’t own a smoker so I added liquid smoke and put it on the grill for the first 30 minutes and transferred to the oven for the last 10. I also added a bit of jack Daniel’s with the liquid to combine two recipes. So freaking good. Everyone loved it. Tomorrow I will be making a triple batch to freeze for lunches

  8. Hi there. I’ve made this a couple of years ago & it was great. I’m going to make it again this weekend but I want to double it. Should I use a bigger skillet or dutch oven Or maybe cook the pasta then transfer to a foil pan? i’m concerned if it is too dense on the smoker it wont pick up the smoke flavor.

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